Second quilt: dandelions, books, and bug jars

When I promised the kiddo a quilt for her fourth(!) birthday, I envisioned something that had a lot of plaid, and some hearts in squares. Something kind of like this:

Drawing of a quilt with hearts in squares
From the book King Baby by Kate Beaton

What I ended up making looks absolutely nothing like that, but I’m pretty pleased and I hope she will like it enough to have it on her bed, oh, forever.

I had signed up for a beginning quilting class through the town’s community education program, but the class was cancelled due to low enrollment, so I found one at the Cambridge Quilt Shop. “Start Quilting” met four times in four weeks, for two hours each time. The pattern, a four-patch with an accent and a “focus” and two borders, was set ahead of time (goodbye, hearts), but the instructor kindly helped me adjust the measurements so I could make a twin-sized quilt.

I love browsing fabrics. But while it’s easy to pick out ones I like, it is hard to put them together in a way that looks good. I tend to gravitate toward things that are low contrast, similar in color/tone/hue/value, and I may have overcorrected for that tendency here: the four-patch with its green, blue, and off-white works beautifully, but the bug jar fabric is definitely different. But it’s fireflies! And we call her Bug! So, that’s what I chose.

When I first started sewing, I was so impatient that I sometimes skipped one of the following crucial steps: wash, press, measure, cut, pin, sew, press. I actually didn’t even own an iron (I’ve bought one. I still don’t have an ironing board; I use a towel laid flat over the end of my sewing table, which works just fine for smaller pieces but is annoying for larger ones.) Pressing and pinning are absolutely necessary, and once I recognized how much easier they would make the later steps (and how much nicer the end result would be), I stopped resenting them and started appreciating them. Cutting the fabric is the most nerve-wracking part (in a mild sense of that term), and I should probably invest in a larger self-healing cutting mat and a 10″ square ruler. Maybe next time…

Design tips:

  • Take pictures of your fabrics in black and white.
  • Realize that it often won’t look like what you expected.
  • Border(s) can tie the whole thing together and change the look.
  • Look at it from farther away (put it up on a wall, or have someone hold it) so you get a different perspective.

Practical tips:

  • Wash fabrics before beginning. Flannel shrinks up more than regular quilting cottons; wash it at least once but ideally twice before using.
  • Get to know your machine; always have your manual handy. Troubleshooting: When in doubt, rethread the needle. Change the needle if you think it might be bent (or just worn out). Wind a new bobbin.
  • Just like working at a computer, take breaks to rest your eyes and back.

Sewing/piecing tips:

  • Measure a quarter inch from your needle and mark it with masking tape.
  • Sit directly in front of your machine.
  • If you’re at a long table, set your machine up at one of the ends, which are sturdier (the middle might sag); this is also helpful once you are working with a bigger piece of fabric, because you’ll have more space to the left of your machine.
  • When beginning to sew, hold the ends of the thread for the first several stitches so they don’t get pulled in and tangled in your sewing or into the machine.
  • “Chain piecing” is your friend! If you have lots of little pieces to sew at the same time, you can feed them in one after another and snip them apart afterward, instead of stopping between each one.
  • When pinning, pin each end first, then the middle, then the two middles you’ve created, etc.; if one piece is slightly longer than the other, put that piece on the bottom as you run it through the machine, and the feed dogs will help even it out (up to about 1/4″ depending on the length of your piece).

 

Chain pieced blue and white squares
Chain piecing: looks a little like Tibetan prayer flags until you snip them apart. Please ignore messy basement.

The “four-patch” (books and dandelions) and the green “accent” fabric, pieced and laid out next to the bug jar “focus” fabric.

The blocks on the wall for a good view, then pieced, then kid-tested.

For the inner border, I used one of the same fabrics from the four-patch. For the outer border, I used one very similar to the other four-patch fabric. Two strips can be joined to make a strip long enough for the border.

The finished quilt top and the back. Now, on to the quilt sandwich and the mystery of binding… Our whole class decided to add one more session so we could tackle these questions.

Meanwhile, I made a pillowcase, because come on narwhals AND puffins how could I not??

pillowcase

It should be noted that all of the photos here were taken at night, mostly in the basement, and so are not of the best quality. Everything looks better in person.

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Spring kitchen

Usually by this point in the year, the weather is warm enough most days that I don’t want to turn on the oven, but we’ve had more than our ordinary share of drear this spring, so we’ve kept up baking (though weekly bread has fallen by the wayside, probably till fall).

egg salad on homemade focaccia

Bread: Focaccia from Flour turned out beautifully, despite two initial mishaps: my jar of active yeast was no longer active (but I had a packet that was), and then I added all three(!) teaspoons of the salt instead of saving two of them to sprinkle on at the end (I wish the ingredients list had said “divided”). I ended up just about doubling the recipe and combining some of the extra-salty dough with some unsalted dough, and it worked out!

I also tried a bread “recipe” from Laurie Colwin’s book Home Cooking. It was written the way that cooking recipes often are, but baking instructions are usually more specific. It turned out okay but was kind of under-proved, I think.

Breakfast and brunch: More almond flour pancakes from King Arthur Flour. A simple fruit salad of pineapple, strawberries, and mint (I’ve learned that when it comes to fruit salad, less – or rather, fewer – is more. Highlighting just two or three fruits or berries that go really well together is my new strategy). Cinnamon rolls from Pioneer Woman (these are decadent. I have her book, and I usually quarter the recipe, and tone down the filling and icing a little bit too. They’re still insanely good). Quiche with shallots, broccoli, red bell pepper, and three types of cheese.

Sides/snacks: Deviled eggs, cheese and crackers pac-man style, strawberry-applesauce, the first asparagus of the season, tzatziki (yogurt-cucumber dip), crispy kale.

Dinner: The chickpea/lemon/parsley pasta dish from Dinner by Melissa Clark. I had some of this at the library cookbook club (we did Dinner and also Sweet by Ottolenghi & Helen Goh, because we made the mistake of choosing a desert-less book one time and once was enough), and it was delicious and pretty easy. I’ve also been making lemon pasta more lately, it’s quite simple but makes it feel a little fancy.

Chickpea lemon parsley pasta

Sweets: I discovered my madeleine pan in the bottom of a kitchen drawer and a friend sent me a recipe from the book We Love Madeleines. I made “The Basic Madeleine,” but even though I added a little almond extract, they came out disappointingly bland. However, they turned out of the pan nicely and had the right texture; next time, I’ll put in lots of lemon or orange zest. The same friend gave me her recipe (from another source) for chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips in them, and they are out of this world.

For Purim, we made hamentashen cookies, and for Passover we made candied matzah (matzah with a layer of homemade caramel, melted chocolate, and sprinkles) and vanilla roasted pears from Smitten Kitchen.

I had some leftover phyllo dough from making spanakopita, so I made baklava (though one friend insists it wasn’t baklava, because she doesn’t like baklava, but she loved this). Instead of a sugar syrup for the top, I melted honey and poured it over the top.

As has been previously established here, I find rhubarb irresistible; I found some and brought it home and made a small strawberry-rhubarb crumble.

I made my first lemon poppyseed cake, from Sweet, and it came out well. Now that I have the poppyseeds, I’ll make it again, though you need to have plenty of lemons on hand – if I remember right, the recipe calls for four.

And since my last food post (Winter Kitchen, Snowstorm Edition), I went to Northern Ireland with a friend; the food was mostly nothing to write home about, but the tea…

Tea, milk, scone, cream, jam, butter

The farmers’ market starts up again in our area in about two weeks. I’m looking forward to it!

 

 

 

 

What we’ve read so far, three years and seven months

What we’ve read so far, three and a half years

We have made the leap into chapter books! I kind of can’t believe it, and even after she listened to the first chapter of Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary, I didn’t think she’d want to continue – we’d only made it through the first few pages of Stuart Little and first few chapters of Fortunately, the Milk – but we read the whole book in less than a week and moved right on to Ramona the Pest (we just finished chapter seven, of eight). We’ve also started reading Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, which was a gift from a librarian friend; I can’t remember if I even read Pippi as a kid but it’s vaguely familiar and we’re both liking it a lot so far.

Ramona books

We also got the first two Ramona books on audio; they’re narrated by Stockard Channing, which is…interesting. It’s a little weird at first (Rizzo! First Lady Bartlet!) and for some reason some of her grown-ups sound Southern even though the books are set in Oregon, but mostly they’re good, and we have a couple longer car trips coming up in June, so they’ll be great for that. Between two regular adult readers (Mama and Dad) and the audiobooks, she usually hears each chapter twice, and then she’s able to tell other people about parts of the story – she’s definitely absorbing and retaining a lot, and she smiles and laughs at the funny parts.

Of course, this does not mean we’ve left picture books behind – we’re still reading plenty of those, and everything Arnold Lobel. Here’s a picture of our current library shelf:

Shelf of picture books

Recent favorites include:

  • Fraidyzoo by There Heder
  • The Angry Little Puffin by Timothy Young
  • The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol
  • The Grand Expedition by Emma Adbage (translated from Swedish; recommended by our friend Emma (not the author))
  • Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev
  • Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
  • Winnie by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss

The last two books are about the real Winnie, the bear cub brought to England by Canadian veterinarian Harry Colebourn when he shipped over for the Great War. Rather than take Winnie to the fighting fields in France, he left her at the London Zoo, where Christopher Robin Milne encountered her, and the rest is history. When I first read this pair, both published in 2015, I preferred Sally Walker’s version (and I still love it. Hide-and-seek biscuits!), but on my first time reading Finding Winnie aloud I unexpectedly teared up at the end and had to hand it off to Dad to finish reading. Anyway, they’re both wonderful, so if you’ve got Winnie the Pooh fans in your house, they’re worth checking out.

May flowers

Okay, so May was almost as rainy as April, but we did have SOME sunshine, and the plants are mostly thriving! The tomato seedlings are outside in the new raised bed, and while they aren’t nearly the same size as the one I got from the nursery, I think they’ll catch up in the summer.

newly mulched hellebore and coral bells

Berries: We’ve had just a few strawberries so far, hoping for a good crop in June. There is lots of healthy green growth on the raspberry, blueberry, and (new) blackberry bushes.

Flowers: The nasturtium seeds bloomed; the fiesta blend was slow to come up and are still a little small, but the mahogany variety came up more quickly and is growing well. The phlox is going crazy; I divided a little to try to spread it out. The calibrochoa and lemon thyme in the hanging baskets are beginning to spread, in a few weeks they should be spilling over. Wildflower seeds are beginning to come up, and a neighbor gave me some cosmos that had re-seeded themselves from last year.

purple and pink phlox

Grasses: I cut back last year’s dead grasses and there’s new growth coming up now. I somehow didn’t realize I was going to have to cut them back every year, but I think they’ll get tall again quickly.

Herbs: I got three over-the-railing holders for pots, so parsley, chives, and my new favorite mint (strawberry mint, it smells insanely good) are hanging off the front porch. There are three more varieties in pots/cinder blocks (chocolate mint, apple mint, and peppermint), and a pot of rosemary and one of, I think, onion chives. I also moved a sage plant that has weathered the last two winters from the back yard to the front, where it will get more sun, and did the same for the lavender.

Herbs in hanging pots

Honeysuckle: It might not take a whole decade for it to cover the back fence after all! It’s definitely healthy and bigger than last year.

Peas: All three types are growing vigorously! I spotted the first sweet pea flower this morning.

Potatoes: I planted three little red potatoes that had all sprouted eyes and the plants are already huge. Whoa.

Pumpkins: Unclear what’s happening there. Stay tuned.

Shrubs: The three abbotswood potentilla have greened up beautifully and their little pale yellow-white flowers are beginning to pop.

Spiderwort: This has volunteered itself for the second year in a row. I pulled a few small ones out from the lawn, and moved another large one from in front of the coral bells to where the lavender and sage used to be. It’s a bit like the daylilies: not my favorite, but better than nothing, so it stays for now.

Our bunnies did not get the memo about marigolds being critter-repellent. Apparently the dog is also not a rabbit repellent. These bunnies are bold.

 

 

 

April Showers

April has been very wet, but the last couple weeks have felt mild enough that I planted a few cold-sensitive things outside, even though the last average frost date for this area is May 4. The tomatoes and basil are still inside, though.

PeasMost of last year’s bulbs came up (daffodils, narcissus, grape hyacinth, tulips) and there are even some blooms that the rabbits didn’t eat! (They don’t touch daffodils usually, but they love to eat the tulips.)

I planted three types of peas from seed – sweet pea, sugar snap, and shelling – and they’ve all come up and started to send out tendrils. I planted nasturtium seeds outside as well (soaked them in water first for 12-24 hours, like it said on the packet), and I haven’t seen those emerge yet, but it’s still within the expected window, so I’m hopeful; I got two varieties, fiesta and mahogany. The marigold seeds I saved from last year’s flowers didn’t germinate, so I bought some and put them in our new cinder block planters around our new raised bed. I scattered wildflower seeds in two areas: “Bring Home the Butterflies” in the same place as last year, and “Fairy Meadow” in the front with the rose campion.

The raspberry and blueberry bushes are looking healthy, with good new green growth – I trimmed the old dead stalks of the raspberry – and I put four varieties of strawberry in the raised bed with the garlic: Alpine, All Star, Ozark Beauty, and Quinault. While I was at the nursery getting the strawberries and marigolds, I also got an Icelandic poppy (“Champagne bubbles”), two types of mint (spearmint and chocolate mint), rosemary, lemon thyme, calibrochoa in two colors, and a “dwarf morning glory.” All of those are outside and doing well so far!

Grass, coral bells, hellebore

In the back yard, the hellebore from my aunt is finally perking up, a little taller than last year and bright green. The two plants from my cousin are also looking vigorous, as is the vinca which I transplanted from the front last year (I should have just thrown it out…it’s going to take over). Sage and lavender survived the winter again, as did the honeysuckle and coral bells. I cut back the three tall grasses (as per Beginner Gardening Step By Step: A Visual Guide to Yard and Garden Basics). Daylilies and iris are also coming up (no blooms yet).

In an experiment, I let some small potatoes start growing eyes, then planted them in the new raised bed where I’ll be putting the tomatoes when they’re ready to move outside.

We’ve had plenty of rain…now it’s time for some sun!

April 14:

  • Planted marigold seeds saved from last year
  • Repotted tomato seedlings into 4″ pots
  • Raked dead leaves and pruned dead parts of lavender and sage
  • Pea shoots are beginning to emerge
  • Garlic is up (planted bulbs from the farmers’ market last fall)
  • New growth on raspberry and blueberry bushes
  • Allium coming up
  • Planted calla lily in planter box outside (was in basement during the winter)

April 22:

  • Pea shoots are vigorous!
  • Marigold seeds have not germinated
  • Raspberry and blueberry bushes looking good
  • Tulips(!), daffodils, and grape hyacinth blooming
  • Daylilies and iris coming up (no blooms yet)

Strawberries and garlic

April 30:

  • Put strawberries in raised bed
  • Planted 3 potatoes in new raised bed
  • Planted marigolds, and nasturtium seeds
  • Annuals in hanging baskets and large pot
  • Wildflower seeds

My good helper at the garden center

What we’ve read so far: three and a half years

Previously: What we’ve read so far: three years, two months

Bookshelf of picture books from the library
Library bookshelf at home

We are still reading, reading, reading! We get books from the library every week, occasional boxes from Nana, and we have our “permanent collection” at home. But our “library shelf” is always full. Recent favorites include:

  • Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian and Mike Curato
  • The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker and Mark Pett
  • World Pizza by Cece Meng and Ellen Shi
  • Edward Gets Messy by Rita Meade
  • Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood and Meg Hunt
  • Spots in a Box by Helen Ward
  • Ladybugs by Gail Gibbons (nonfiction)

I’m trying to find more nonfiction picture books, and I often bring home books that I read at storytime (see “Step Into Storytime” posts on my other blog for all of those titles). Once we’ve read a book a couple times, she can retell the story (including the endings – spoiler alert!), and will correct whoever is reading aloud if they make a mistake.

Letter recognition is pretty strong, and she is starting to write some letters as well – mainly the letters in her name, as well as some relatively easier ones like C, T, and O. She’s starting to do this with crayons/markers/pencils on paper now, but seems more comfortable writing bigger, outside – with chalk on the driveway, for example, or with a stick or her finger in the sand. Very exciting!

Dad and daughter reading together

Early spring garden

Tulip leavesWinter has released its death grip, the White Witch has been vanquished, Persephone is being allowed aboveground again: Spring is coming.

Last year’s bulbs are coming up: daffodils (I’m hopeful about these), tulips (will probably be eaten by critters), narcissus, grape hyacinth, and of course the irrepressible daylilies.

One clump of violas survived the winter, improbably.

The coral bells are regaining their color.

The garlic I planted last fall is coming up!

Tomato seedlings

Inside, I’ve started tomato seeds. I exercised great restraint this year and got just one packet of sungolds – 10 seeds in the packet – because of last year’s insane excess of tomatoes (and the discovery that my kid won’t eat them). I may get another plant or two of a different variety (sweet 100, if I can find them) later in the spring. All of the seeds have sprouted!

The kiddo will eat shelling peas, so we planted a LOT of those. I couldn’t find the “Wando” variety we had last year, but the “Progress #9” should be fine, and I planted sugar snap peas and sweet peas (“perfume delight”) as well. None of them have sent up shoots yet, but the packet said 10-21 days to emerge, and it’s only been 8 days.

Ficus trees in new green potsThe ficus benjamina is doing well; the ficus lyrata, less so. It has dropped several leaves after large dark brown patches formed on them, and after reading a bit about the problems with fiddle leaf figs, I figured it was a problem with overwatering/root rot. (Strange, because I watered it very infrequently. Maybe it wasn’t getting enough sun? But it was supposed to have “indirect sun.”) Anyway, I repotted both trees from 10″ pots to 12″ pots. The lyrata dropped a couple more leaves but seems to have stabilized (for now? maybe?) and the bejamina is still happy.

Now we have a lull until the date of last average frost (May 4, give or take), so we’ll rake up dead leaves and pick up trash, and prepare the raised bed and containers. In May, I’ll move the tomato plants outside and plant strawberries and potatoes (I have a few growing eyes in the kitchen) in the raised bed. I’ve got nasturtium seeds to plant in the hanging baskets outside, and pumpkin seeds to go in the ground, and wildflower seeds as well (the same “bring home the butterflies” mix as last year). I also saved some marigold seeds from last year – I ought to start those in a seed tray inside.

Keeping fingers crossed all those peas come up!

Coral bells

Abbotswood potentilla shrub with new growth

Greyhound in sunshine

 

Winter kitchen, snowstorm edition

In the summer, it often gets so hot that I’m reluctant to turn on the oven; in the winter, we bake and cook all the time! Here are a few of the things we’ve made in the last couple months.

Breakfast

Four eggs in a pink cartonFrittata with caramelized onion, garlic, thyme, and sharp cheddar: America’s Test Kitchen directs you to start the frittata in an oven-safe pan on the stovetop and finish it in the oven, which has worked perfectly the two or three times I’ve done it that way. This scales up fairly well; the recipe calls for six eggs and half a cup of cheese, but I used nine eggs and a whole cup of cheese.

Buttermilk biscuits and cream scones from ATK: Both of these are staples, and super easy to throw together. We use a buttermilk powder mix that can be kept in the fridge and mixed with water to get the amount you need – otherwise I doubt we’d ever make recipes that called for buttermilk. For the scones, you can leave them plain or throw in whatever extra mix-ins you like; craisin-pistachio is a favorite.

Brunch for friends: Pumpkin bread pudding from Smitten Kitchen, roasted potatoes (small mixed potatoes, quartered, with olive oil and salt). Friends supplied a beautiful fruit salad of pineapple, blackberries, pomegranate seeds, and mint. The pumpkin bread pudding was exactly as Deb described, something between baked French toast and pumpkin pie. I doubled the recipe and baked it in a 9×13 so had to extend the baking time and the center was still slightly underdone; 40 minutes would probably do it.

Snacks

Beer croutons (because we still had some stale baguette left from the bread pudding): Used this recipe from a little over four years ago, but with a full stick of butter and two cloves of chopped garlic. Again, no pictures because we ate them all immediately, but they were golden brown and crunchy and salty and yum.

Rice pudding in round white dish, reflection in mixing bowlRice pudding: This could also go into any of the other categories, honestly. It’s from Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year and it really was delicious, but it also took quite a while and it’s possible now to get pretty good rice pudding at the store. However, I’m glad I made it once, because it was really good warm and with lemon, cinnamon, and raisins (I was super doubtful about the raisins, but they worked).

Dinner

Burrito night: It’s always good to have a few easy dinner ideas in the arsenal that don’t require a lot of work and that scale up well. My cousins and my mom came over on a Thursday night and I made rice and black beans and homemade guacamole (avocado, lemon juice, salt) for an assemble-your-own burrito night. (Store-bought tortillas, jarred salsa, and shredded cheese. Forgot sour cream.)

Chicken thighs with mustard, lemon, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and possibly some other things I’m forgetting: This was mostly from Dinner by Melissa Clark except I used thighs instead of breasts (she says you can!) and made it on the stovetop instead of the broiler. It was still delicious, especially with buttery mashed potatoes and green beans.

Vegetable pot pie: The chicken bits are always my least favorite part of chicken pot pie, so when I’m making it at home, I leave them out. We use the ATK recipe for the crust and the filling, and use potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, and broccoli.

Sweet

IMG_20190223_135733Special occasion cake: There are two February birthdays in our house and I made The Cake for both of them. It’s a three-layer chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting and it is, as Mary Berry would say, perfection (even if I wouldn’t get any points for style – but I’d argue that this cake needs no decoration).

More cake: Lemon Bundt cake with orange glaze from ATK. Pretty good, but I preferred the gingered apple Bundt cake I’d made previously for cookbook club, from Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year.

“Cowboy Cookies” from Moosewood: Pretty good, but not quite as good as the “Chunky Lola” cookies from Flour, which are very similar. Healthy-tasting enough for an afternoon snack. Next time I might use pecans instead of walnuts for added sweetness. (Also, I did not toast the walnuts as instructed.)

Cranberry maple pecan cake from Flour: USE PARCHMENT PAPER. Probably because of all the maple syrup, it was nearly impossible to turn the cake out of the pan after letting it rest for 30 minutes as the recipe instructed. I had buttered and floured the bread tin, but next time I’ll use parchment paper. (The cake is delicious.)

Bundt cake with citrus glaze

 

Wintergreen

Ficus lyrata
If you live in a wintry climate, and there is a garden center or nursery near you, I highly recommend visiting on an cold day and walking around inside, just breathing in all that green. (If you’re lucky enough to live near one of those tropical palm houses, like in Chicago, then by all means go there.)

I spent a couple wonderful hours at a garden center in January and came home with a couple of ficus trees (Ficus benjamina and Ficus lyrata) and a philodendron (“Prince of Orange”) and a jade plant. They all seem to be thriving, though I often hear the benjamina dropping dead leaves in the middle of the night.

Ficus trees and other plants in nursery

We also painted and rearranged our half-size office-y room upstairs, so now it’s more of a greenhouse/yoga room. I divided my aloe and moved a couple other succulents up there, because the window gets great light. We also planted some seeds today from a butternut squash, so we’ll see if those take. (Are grocery store squash treated in some way that makes you unable to use the seeds to grow your own?)

Aloe and other succulents

Not related to the garden, but I also knitted a replacement orange scarf (apparently this yarn is NOT washable – the cowl I made last year fused to itself when I washed it), and sewed curtains for two more windows. They’re so much nicer when they’re hemmed to the right length, and it was nice to get reacquainted with my sewing machine. (The kiddo got to help too; I let her do the foot pedal for some of the curtains, and try out a zig-zag stitch on some scrap fabric.) I haven’t done a sewing project since the quilt I finished last December – but I just signed up for a beginning quilting class that starts at the end of April!

Best Toys for Three

You think you’ll remember everything, but you won’t. (Or you’re wiser to begin with, and know you won’t remember everything, in fact cannot remember what day it is right now, or where you put your keys, or how many times you’ve microwaved that same cup of tea today.)

I am already beginning to forget exactly what two was like, or two and a half. What did she wear, what did she say, when did she start jumping with two feet or using a three-point grip, what books were we reading, what did she play with?

Well, I’ve done a decent job keeping track of what we read when, between “what we’ve read so far” posts on this blog and LibraryThing, and I have approximately thirteen zillion pictures so I know when she wore the yellow fish shirt or the green turtle pants, and I keep a little book where I write down select quotes (“Did you know that feet can be afraid?” For the record, hers never are).

Toys, though, I have a feeling I’m not going to remember which toys she liked best at what age. And because it’s nice to remember, and also because I will probably need to give gifts to other three-year-olds years from now, I thought it’d be useful to have a record. No one has paid me to endorse any of the below products.

img_20181224_084359
We LOVE this puzzle, which can be “solved” any number of ways.

Art: Magna-doodle (great for car trips), Play-doh, watercolors, water-based paint, crayons (especially metallic or “gel,” which show up well on construction paper, butcher paper, cardboard, etc.)

Building: Megablox, Duplo, Marbleworks, regular wooden blocks of various shapes, Magnatiles (we play with these at the library), Brio trains, PipeWorks (cannot get this anymore, my mom saved ours from the ’80s, thank you Mom!)

Board Games: Snail’s Pace Race (also saved from the ’80s but I think they still make it), Friends & Neighbors, Hoot Owl Hoot, matching/memory, Go Fish. (Hoot Owl Hoot and Friends & Neighbors are from Peaceable Kingdom, which makes cooperative rather than competitive games), Candyland

Literacy: Acorn Soup (it has “recipes”), Zingo, board books with nursery rhymes

Pretend/Dress-Up: Food/cooking things (play food, sturdy teacups, teapot, apron, Bake-and-Decorate Cupcake Set, little plates, pots and pans, etc.); Doctor or Pet Vet sets (we play with these at the library); firefighter costume; various twirly skirts/tutus

Puzzles/STEM: 24-piece Imaginarium Discovery wooden blocks color puzzle (this is the BEST), any wooden puzzle with 20-30 pieces if it’s in a wooden frame, oversize floor puzzles (e.g. Its-Bitsy Spider, fire truck, Madeline), the gear toy from Plan Toys, stacking/nesting cups (still!)

img_20181113_172202It really is true that kids have their own unique interests and develop their skills accordingly. Ours loves art, but is much more interested in color than in any kind of representative drawing; we’re still nowhere near coloring books or even stick figures, but painting is fun. She’s not particularly interested in cars or trucks or Things That Go (though she’ll read books about them). She likes kitchen things (real and pretend) and building things and has been into puzzles from a pretty early age; I’m guessing that in a few years she’ll be able to bake a simple cake on her own, and a few years after that she’ll be helping her dad with those thousand-piece jigsaw puzzles. And she loves the chess set at the library…